House Party is a film that barely fills the room, despite its many cameos and promises of absurdity.
Published on March 30, 2023
Rating 1.5 /5
The reboot of House Party comes off way too desperate in an attempt to weave a one-wild-night party picture. There used to be a time when such fun pictures usually involved comical antics of sexual encounters, wild run-ins with the law, and a giddy evasion of authority figures. In 2023’s House Party, the hijinks comprise a LeBron James hologram, Kid Cudi being involved with the Illuminati, and a slew of other casual cameos that makes modern-day Simpsons cameos look daring by comparison.
It doesn’t help that it’s hard to be enthused about the key players. Kevin (Jacob Latimore) is trying to do right by his daughter but can only muster a housecleaning job that he’s not very good at. Further complicating his career is his best friend and recluse Damon (Tosin Cole), who smokes weed and gets in trouble with local gangs. They’ve both fallen on hard times when they fail to make ends meet. Realizing they’re losing their jobs, they conclude that the only way to raise immediate funds is to throw a grand house party. And since their latest client for housecleaning is an absent LeBron James, they overtake a mansion for a wild night.
Or at least that wild night is implied by the assembly. The execution, however, makes this bombastic party feel more like a lukewarm get-together. With everything thrown into this picture, one might be forgiven if they expected such a picture to be off-the-wall with its tale. It becomes clear that this picture is just kind of going through the motions as it progresses, where Kevin and Damon are too tame for their roles in a film where gangsters bicker about the logistic of threats and Walter Emanuel Jones (the original black Power Ranger) tries to pick up girls with his nostalgic status. Shouldn’t an out-of-control house party feel more chaotic than lukewarm? Despite being a crucial plot point, it feels like hardly anyone shows up for this bash and does little to rough up LeBron’s mansion.
Halfway through this cameo-laden comedy, where hardly any laughs land, the film attempts to veer into left field by having a detour to an Illuminati meeting. A missing ring from LeBron’s trophy room leads to Kevin and Damon venturing into an Eyes Wide Shut style gathering, thanks to the connections of a deadpan Kid Cudi. Strange things happen in this setting, including the consumption of blood and a battle to the death. But even with the sudden gore from the screen, the absurdity never quite meshes. It all leads up to a punchline of the characters remarking on how weird that last scene was. And if the characters specifically have to tell the audience that a sequence is weird, something is amiss. The Illuminati scene feels less like an unexpected comedy avenue and more like an attempt a reviving this dreary party movie. It does not work.
House Party is a film that barely fills the room, despite its many cameos and promises of absurdity. When the grand punchline of the picture is LeBron taking pity on the poor protagonists with a poem, this whole picture just comes off like a mess of ideas, all slammed together into a lacking first draft. Like a stoner who dreams up the perfect philosophy, this film has big ideas but no followthroughs to make the silliness stick.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.